NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Treasury department is stepping up pressure on publicly traded companies to return money they received under the Paycheck Protection Program.

The program offered low-interest loans to small businesses affected in the pandemic. But the $350 billion for the program (that was part of a coronavirus rescue package Congress passed last month) quickly ran dry.

In a new guidance issued Thursday afternoon, the department said it is unlikely that a publicly traded company with access to other capital would need a government-backed loan.

It’s requesting companies to repay the loan in full by May 7th.

One company, Ruth’s Hospitality Group, which owns high-end steak chain Ruth’s Chris Steak House, said it will return the $20 million coronavirus small business loan it received.

There was a collective outcry from many small business owners, especially in the hard-hit restaurant industry, when the chain accepted the stimulus loans earmarked for struggling small businesses.

A spokesperson for Ruth’s Hospitality Group sent CBS 11 News the following statement:

In an effort to protect our team members and their loved ones, Ruth’s Hospitality Group applied for and received loans under the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).   We were eligible for this assistance, and our goal was to utilize funds to keep as many of our team members working for as long as possible, cover 100% of healthcare benefits, and position Ruth’s Chris to rebuild its workforce as quickly as possible.

We intended to repay this loan in adherence with government guidelines.  As we learned more about the funding limitations of the program and the unintended impact, we have decided to accelerate that repayment.  We remain dedicated to protecting our hardworking team.  It is our hope that these funds are loaned to another company to protect their employees, just as we intended.

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